The RSPCA sees the involvement of lay perspectives as essential to the integrity of a successful ethical review process and is committed to supporting and developing the role of lay members.
While the involvement of 'lay' members is common practice in [human] medical ethics committees, they are only 'recommended' as participants within local ethical review processes (ERP) for animal research in the UK.
The term 'lay' is used to cover people with a diversity of backgrounds outside of the specific science being reviewed. Ideally, individuals are drawn from outside the particular science faculty or establishment. This could include people with expertise in ethics, philosophy, law, animal welfare or the social sciences, as well as members of the local community. Whatever their expertise, the role of the lay member is to bring a different set of perspectives to discussions about animal use.
The Society's research animals department has developed a resource book to assist lay members with their work within the ERP. This has proved useful for other categories of ERP member as well. The current edition (the second) is a completely revised and updated version, published in 2009:
Lay members should also find useful a joint report by the RSPCA and LASA, first published in May 2010 and setting out Guiding principles on good practice for Ethical Review Processes (2010) (PDF 1.93MB).
The research animals department organises regular meetings for lay members which provide a forum for them to come together and share experiences.
RSPCA International together with the research animals department, also organises workshops to facilitate the formation and operation of ethics committees overseas.
A sample workshop manual prepared for one such course (in Poland) provides further information on issues such as assessing harms and benefits, the 3Rs, housing and care, and the sort of questions ERP members can ask. Read the manual:
A booklet explaining the technology, terms and welfare implications relating to the creation and use of genetically manipulated animals is available. This guide is intended to help members of ethical review committees understand the processes involved in studies using GM animals and the implications for animal welfare:
To promote more careful and thorough consideration of replacement, we have produced a resource for teachers, lecturers or trainers, and as a source of information for lay members of local ethical review processes and others with an interest in the subject:
The research animals department has also developed short good practice guidelines for the housing and care of commonly held laboratory species.
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